Tuesday, July 5, 2011

CLUCK NEWS: Antibiotic chicken food in Netherlands linked to drug-resistant E. coli in humans

Next to Salmonella, probably the biggest health risk associated with chickens is the bacterium E. coli. Some people are probably tempted to assume that backyard hens might be more likely to cause problems related to E. coli because they are less likely to be medicated. Now a report from the CDC that appears in their Emerging Infectious Diseases journal suggests that the genetic makeup of E. coli found in some Netherlands hospital patients is so similar to that found associated with chicken meat sold there that the chickens are likely the source of the strain and, moreover, the strain is drug-resistant probably as a result of emerging in chickens fed anti-microbial agents.

Here is the final paragraph of the article:

We conclude that the high rate of ESBL contamination of retail chicken meat in the Netherlands, which involves many of the same ESBL genes present in colonized and infected humans, is a plausible source of the recent increase of ESBL genes in the Netherlands. The similarity of E. coli strains and predominant drug resistance genes in meat and humans provides circumstantial evidence for an animal reservoir for a substantial part of ESBL genes found in humans. The threat of the high rate of antimicrobial drug use in food-production animals and associated emergence of drug resistance in zoonotic pathogens has been recognized for decades. Our group and others found that most samples of retail chicken meat contain transmissible drug resistance genes in bacterial species that are part of the normal human intestinal flora. This finding may have a profound effect on future treatment options for a wide range of infections with gram-negative bacteria.

Overdevest I, Willemsen I, Rijnsburger M, Eustace A, Xu L, Hawkey P, et al. Extended-spectrum β-lactamase genes ofEscherichia coli in chicken meat and humans, the Netherlands. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2011 Jul [5]. 

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